Boys basketball continues winning streak at city showdown; girls fall 38-66

By Henry DeWitt and Daniel Davidson

Without getting a single break throughout the game, boys basketball took their 12th consecutive win in last night’s city showdown.

The Free State Firebirds and Lions alike hoped to continue their winning streaks as they faced each other at Allen Fieldhouse. Taking the spot of first place in the Sunflower League, Lawrence High grabbed a 50-42 finish.

Entering the game, the Lions realized establishing a transition game would be a key to winning. Free State has continued to struggle this season against teams that have fast work in transition offense, such as the Lions who seemingly toss up an alley-oop to senior center Mayson Quartelbaum every game.

“The toughest thing,” power forward Bryce Johnson said, “was really knowing how much this game meant for Lawrence High as a school and towards our rankings going into sub-state and Sunflower League.”

Against Shawnee Mission East, which averages 60 points per game as one of the top scoring offenses in the league, the Firebirds held them to a mere 46 points. Free State’s superb 2-3 zone defense’s ability to keep dominant offenses in the state to low scores made this game against the Lions an impressive matchup.

After Free State won the tipoff and made the first score of the game, the Lions answered and made sure the Firebirds never held a lead for the rest of the game.

While Free State may have never taken the lead again, they made sure to always stay close behind. With Lawrence High’s offense slowing down, the Firebird defense was able to create turnovers and bring the score within two points nearing the end of the first quarter.

As the final seconds wound down, small forward Zeke Mayo delivered a half-court shot that brought the Lions to 12-17 heading into the second quarter.

“It felt great,” Mayo said. “I think that really gave us a lot of momentum throughout the rest of the game and that was a big shot for me personally, being able to express my range.”

Free State managed to catch up with a tied 20-20 despite a strong defensive showing by LHS in the second quarter. Johnson made steal after steal as other players created more key turnovers. While the Lions offense was able to find its feet and eventually get ten points past the Firebirds, the first half concluded with a narrow 27-23.

While the first half of play showed the Lions being unable to capitalize on their offensive speed, the Firebirds catching the Lions and stopping fast breaks throughout, the Lions did manage to establish a high powered settled offense.

The third quarter was a defensive showing from both teams. Possession after possession, both were forcing spectacular turnovers. The teams were held to very few attempted shots, with most being blocked. Holding each other to only eight points in the second quarter, the only baskets made came from lay-ups and short range jumpers.

Free State’s defense refused to give the Lions a comfortable lead as they entered the fourth quarter with only a four point lead, 35-41.

Firebird Mozae Downing fouled out with only 5:23 remaining in the game, allowing Lawrence to go on quick run, eventually pushing their lead to 45-34. Just when the game seemed out of reach for the Firebirds, key defensive contributor Zeke Mayo went down with an ankle injury.

With Mayo down, the Firebirds started to go on a run, eventually bringing them within only five points from the Lions with 25 seconds left. Any hope of mounting a late game comeback for the Firebirds was shot down after being called for traveling.

The Lions proved last night that they are far more than just a great offense with their 50-42 finish. Point guard Peyton Mallory felt their versatile plays were a good sign as the team begins to prepare for the state tournament.

“Last night’s win was definitely a big one for us,” Mallory said. “It was a big confidence booster to be able to close out a game against a gritty team on a big stage, and that’s going to help us a lot moving forward.”

Girls give Free State a tough first half

Since their last win against Junction City on Feb. 1, the girls basketball team was hoping to end their five game losing streak and give themselves momentum as they prepare to head into the postseason.

While the Lions managed to snag a lead first and keep the pressure on Free State in the first half, the team entered the third quarter losing 29-22. Free State refused to give Lawrence High a break, maintaining a 45-30 advantage by the end of third quarter.

A strong offensive showing left the Lions trailing 38-66 by the end of the game. The girls will have a chance to turn things around as they prepare to face Shawnee Mission South on Tuesday.